Bassist Nathan East’s resume reads like a music industry who’s who.
East, a founding member of renowned, contemporary jazz quartet Fourplay, also is one of the world’s most in-demand bassists with credits that include Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson, Phil Collins and Whitney Houston.
East’s sophomore solo album, Reverence, is a collection of original tracks and cover material spanning the R&B, pop, rock and jazz songbook. Included is a scorching cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Serpentine Fire,” originally recorded in 1991 and featuring Eric Clapton on guitar and Phil Collins on drums. There’s also a soul-stirring interpretation of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that features East’s 16-year-old son, Noah, on piano.
I recently spoke with East about Reverence, his time performing with Eric Clapton, his gear and more.
Did you have a particular musical direction in mind for Reverence?
I always try to go in one direction, and it’s the same with Fourplay and all of the other projects I work on. You always try to go for sonic excellence. The idea is to keep the bar high in terms of quality and sound.
How did you determine what material to use for this project?
It’s a little more of a challenge as a bass player because you have to play bass and then any lead bass is in addition to it. So it’s actually two separate sets of basses on there. The idea is to find songs that lend themselves to that format in writing or covering. You always want to come up with something that will translate to the bass. The other thing I like to do is make records that are song-based and not just chops. Songs that touch a nerve or someone’s heart is also a big criteria.
Your cover of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Serpentine Fire” actually began 25 years ago. How did it come about?
That was originally a project I was working on with my brother called Two Faces of East. We were living together at the time and doing work in the studio, and that particular song was one that we put together. Coincidentally, it was also when I was working with Phil Collins and Eric Clapton. I remember we flew over to England and asked if they’d like to lend their talents.
Sure enough, they put their stamp on it. We pretty much finished it up, but the project never got a deal and the song wound up sitting around in a basement on 2-inch tape.
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The quartet’s latest release, ‘Esprit De Four’ continues the trend of exceptional musicianship and songwriting prowess that’s become a staple of the smooth jazz super group. With amazing groves and melodies from songs like ‘Firefly’, ‘All I Wanna Do’ and the beautiful track, ‘Put Our Hearts Together’; a song written as a tribute for the people of Japan following the devastating Tsunami. Alongside Chuck Loeb (guitar), Bob James (keyboards) and Harvey Mason (drums), East shows why he’s one of the most in demand bassists in music today.
East is also no stranger to music royalty. He’s performed alongside Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Barry White, and Kenny Loggins among many others. He was part of the “Bad” sessions with Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones, played for presidents and the Pope, performed at Live Aid, toured all over the world dozens of times and even co-wrote the #1 song “Easy Lover” with Phillip Bailey and Phil Collins. Not bad for a guy who started out playing cello in the orchestra.
I had the pleasure of speaking with East about ‘Esprit De Four’ as well as his early years and tenure with Slowhand. We also discuss an encounter with the divine and more in this exclusive interview. His life and journey in music is a story worth telling.
You can read my complete Guitar World interview with Nathan East by Clicking Here!